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SMEs seeing productivity gains after tech, innovation push

Singapore

SMALL and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are stepping up their investments in innovation and technology as part of their business transformation efforts - and they are reaping the fruits of their labour.

More than 1,300 enterprises have adopted over 50 ready-to-go technology solutions in areas such as customer management and analytics through Tech Depot since April 2017, announced Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday.

"These businesses are already seeing benefits, with an average of 25 per cent productivity improvement following implementation of the solutions," he said.

Tech Depot is a one-stop platform on the SME Portal which offers technology solutions that are developed and pre-qualified by A*Star, Enterprise Singapore, and the Info-communications Media Development Authority.

Mr Chan gave his opening address at the SME Technology and Innovation Day 2018 at Resorts World Convention Centre, attended by an SME-dominated audience of about 1,600 people.

SMEs are also seizing opportunities to collaborate with research institutes such as A*Star to build their R&D capabilities, he said.

More than 700 A*Star research scientists and engineers have been seconded to about 400 SMEs since 2003 to provide R&D expertise and help enhance business competitiveness, said Mr Chan. This is through A*Star's Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) initiative.

"This is a fine example of how we want to translate research and innovation into enterprise and commercialisation," he said.

During the event, he gave out T-Up Excellence awards to recognise the efforts of three researchers who have worked with SMEs under the scheme.

Among them is Georgina Seah from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, who was seconded to ChemoPower Technology, a company which provides solutions for analytical chemistry applications.

Ms Seah helped the company to develop a methodology to export and process data from specialised equipment to allow the company's online platform to produce experimental results more efficiently.

In his speech, Mr Chan also listed several ways in which Singapore can position itself as a "global Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise" to maintain a vibrant and competitive economy, in which SMEs have an important role to play.

The first is to design products and services for the Asean market and the world, and not just for the domestic market, he said.

Second, innovation must be Singapore's core competitive advantage for local companies to compete successfully in Asean.

Third, to remain relevant as a global Asia node within Asean, Singapore must strive to be the location of choice for startups and SMEs to incubate, pilot and scale up new business models and technologies.

The SME Technology and Innovation Day 2018 - jointly organised by A*Star and Enterprise Singapore - also showcased technology offerings at over 90 exhibition booths targeted at SMEs.

Among them was Singapore-based firm Trakomatic, which exhibited its video analytics technology that is able to perform people tracking, people counting, path tracking, demographic measurement including age, gender, ethnicity and facial expression analytics.

Co-founder Shaun Kwan told The Business Times that Trakomatic's analytics solutions help SMEs use data in their decision making.

He said: "Just two years ago, people were very sceptical [about data analytics]. But now, a lot of them are coming back and reaching out to us.

"They start to understand that without data, they are making decisions based on experience and gut feel, and that's the scary part. Also, their competitors are using data and without it, they are falling behind."